The Botswana Federation of Public Sector Unions (BOFEPUSU) would like to express shock and dismay at the decision of President Khama to suspend four members of the Judiciary over a matter which emanated over a simple issue regarding their housing allowance which they were allegedly not entitled to, as covered in the private press for the past weeks. It is very surprising how a statement issued by the Justices Letsididi, Dingake, Garekwe and Busang in response to the allegations made against them by the Chief Justice can amount to ‘undermining the Chief Justice and ‘bringing the judiciary into disrepute’. BOFEPUSU believes that it is the antithesis of democracy, separation of powers and the rule of law if the head of the Executive, an equal and comparable arm of the Government can suspend judges willy-nilly. It is a feat that one cannot exercise even over his herdsman at his farm. Moreover, BOFEPUSU is of the view that there is no legal basis whatsoever for the stated reason of suspension. There is no such an offence as ‘undermining the Chief Justice’, this one is a creation of the President and it remains to be seen what legal text informed such.
At BOFEPUSU we are deeply perturbed with the tussles and brawls going on within our judiciary. It would appear personalities and egos are at play to the detriment of the integrity of the judiciary. Judicial function is sacred and the judges are to be seen as noble and revered men and women of high agility. The management and leadership within judiciary should therefore be in excellence . With the current developments within our judiciary we are compelled to safely conclude that there is "crisis in our judiciary". It is clear that the managerial and leadership capabilities of the CJ are being put to test and we are shivering with fright that things are falling apart and disintegrating before him.
This circus playing within our judiciary depict a diminishing line between executive and judiciary and therefore separation of powers is under siege. Separation of powers between arms of Government is a fundamental feature of every functional democracy . The continued suspensions of judges with the blink of an eye with so much haste and lack of regard for consequences thereof will set an environment of intimidation and unrest within judges. Given their role in society and upholding justice even on injustices committed by the Executive requires that they be accorded security of their occupation and they be allowed to discharge their duties with freedom and guided by pursuit of justice and professionalism
The issue at hand which is of housing allowance is so minute that it could have been handled internally as it is administrative , unless the CJ is communicating that he is not in control and therefore outsourcing his responsibilities to the police. We call upon all those involved in this circus to think deeply about the integrity of our judiciary lest people lose respect and confidence on it. Judiciary is very fundamental in upholding and nurturing democracy, and to perform this function in need to be intact. The CJ must put his house in order while the President of the country must be cautious and avoid premature mingling in internal judicial matters and therefore entangling the Executive in another sphere of Government.
In the premises therefore, the Botswana Federation of Public Sector Unions would like to caution and warn the President to desist from taking steps which will not only compromise the integrity of our structures but those which will plunge the democracy we have so heartily defended and the entire country into a crisis such as his decision to suspend the four (4) judges of the High Court. As at present BOFEPUSU is in serious anxiety as to what will happen to the matters it and its members have before the said Justices; they will most certainly be postponed or transferred to other judges thus delaying justice much to the violation of the adage ‘Justice delayed is justice denied’.
When the head of the judiciary connives with the Executive to remove judges of the High Court in order to facilitate a packing of the judiciary with timid souls who are unable to speak out against wrongs committed by the Executive against the people, we all have every reason to be concerned. The Botswana Federation of Public Sector Unions (“BOFEPUSU”) is deeply saddened by the dark cloud that has engulfed the judiciary over the last several days. It has eroded the little confidence that the people still had in the judiciary. It will only serve to deepen the case backlog which the Chief Justice has shown himself too powerless to deal with.
BOFEPUSU calls upon Mr. Maruping Dibotelo to resign as Chief Justice. Mr. Dibotelo can no longer be trusted to uphold the Constitution of the Republic of Botswana, safeguard the independence of the judiciary and preserve its integrity. His penchant for petty gossip, lack of tact and sophistication, has resulted in what was a purely administrative matter being elevated to a criminal matter, and then an enquiry into the fitness of judges who have served the country impeccably and administered justice without fear or favour. Under his leadership of the Judicial Service Commission (“JSC”), political acceptability to the Executive has become the main criterion for appointment to the judiciary. This is a position that the Chief Justice has shamelessly defended.
Mr. Dibotelo has over the last several years presided over the rot of the judiciary. He has done more to tarnish the reputation of the judiciary than any other person. He ought to have resigned last year when he falsely accused his colleagues of being corrupt. He has dismally failed to provide intellectual leadership at the bench, and is unable to boast of a single judgment that he has delivered since he became Chief Justice that has advanced the frontiers of legal reasoning. Rather than inspire his colleagues through legal writing he has resorted to purging judges who have displayed keen interest in the development of our jurisprudence.
We ask Mr. Maruping Dibotelo to help restore the dignity of the judiciary by immediately tendering his resignation. The country deserves a Chief Justice with tact, who is level-headed and is able to provide some leadership. The judiciary is far too important to administer using methods and tactics that are more suited for running a peasant’s cattle post.
Yours in Workers victory